Amazon Squeezes Publishers

June 3, 2015

Amazon box

For many librarians, the pipeline from author through publisher through distributor to reviewer to library just is what it is. And so it might have remained, had publishers simply folded ebooks into our existing, longstanding arrangements (ownership, discounts, etc.). But the eagerness of publishers to maximize revenue through the imposition of new restrictions—ranging from jacking up the price by six times over consumer list, to books that self-destruct in a year or two—has forced librarians to look around.

In part, that means that we’ve started to pay attention to the many, many midlist or indie presses that have started drastically boosting their output. We also have started (and it’s about time) to more closely track the many new players of an emerging ecosystem of publishing, not just here, but abroad.

A case in point: Amazon UK. According to various recent reports (see Books + Publishing and the May 26, 2015, issue of Shelf Awareness), Amazon has started tacking on a new series of charges to UK publishers. For instance, if less than 90% of shipments fail to meet Amazon target dates for delivery, publishers will be fined 3% of the cost of the books. The fine jumps to 10% if less than “95% of ‘confirmed or back-ordered’ titles per month are not delivered before Amazon’s system automatically cancels the items.”

On the one hand, that sets a high standard for prompt service. Having a distributor put pressure on its suppliers is just business.

On the other hand, this continues a trend of giving the middlemen a lot of power in the world of publishing.

Meanwhile, one wonders if what is tried in the UK might eventually find its way to our side of the pond.